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Dixie State football: Trailblazers open fall camp on Monday

Dixie State football is set to kick off the 2018 season next week, as the Trailblazers open fall camp on Monday.

The Trailblazers finished the 2017 season with a 5-6 overall record and a 5-5 mark in RMAC play, falling just short of their second-consecutive winning season. However, the five wins did mark the second-consecutive season of five wins or more and the second-most wins in a single season in the program's NCAA Division II era.

Dixie State returns 12 starters from the 2017 squad, including four on offense and eight on defense. Two starters return on the offensive line, led by preseason All-RMAC honoree Tevia Tolutau, who started all 11 games in 2017. The Trailblazers also return the 2017 statistical leaders in rushing in junior running back Sei-J Lauago and receiving in redshirt junior receiver Kasey Allison.

Lauago rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns in just eight games in 2017, setting a DSU record with 100.4 rushing yards per game. Lauago also caught 14 passes for 110 yards and another touchdown to lead DSU with 971 all-purpose yards.

Allison started all 11 games at receiver in 2017, making 39 receptions for a team-high 580 yards and four touchdowns, including a highlight-reel grab over a defender in the end zone against Adams State on Oct. 28.

Defensively, the Trailblazers bring back a host of talent, including last year’s statistical leaders in tackles in junior safety Mike Jones, interceptions in senior safety Trayvon Watson and sacks in senior defensive lineman Remington Kelly.

Jones earned RMAC honorable mention honors in 2017, finishing the year with 84 tackles to go with five pass breakups, four forced fumbles, 2.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Watson also garnered RMAC honorable mention honors last season, ending the year with 69 tackles, six pass breakups, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

A 2018 preseason All-RMAC honoree, Kelly earned All-RMAC honorable mention honors in 2017, finishing the year with 58 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks and a 46-yard fumble recovery touchdown against Adams State. Kelly was also named to the RMAC All-Academic team in 2017 with a 3.53 GPA in business administration.

Junior kicker A.J. Yergensen (7-8 FG/12-14 PAT) and senior kicker Anthony Reyes (53 kickoffs, 27 touchbacks) lead the special teams returners.

Head coach Shay McClure is back for his third season on the Trailblazer sideline. McClure is joined by new coordinators on both sides of the ball in 2018, as Blake Rolan takes over as offensive coordinator and Willie Mack Garza will serve as defensive coordinator.

Rolan comes to Dixie State after spending the 2017 season as an offensive analyst at Kentucky where he helped lead the Wildcats to a 7-6 record and a bid to the Franklin America Mortgage Music City Bowl. Prior to his stint at UK, Nolan served as the wide receivers coach at the University of Cincinnati from 2013-16 and helped guide the Bearcats to three bowl appearances in four seasons.

Garza was promoted to defensive coordinator in March after serving as the Trailblazers’ defensive backs coach in 2017. Garza’s secondary set a DSU record in 2017, allowing just 168.2 passing yards per game.

Five assistant coaches also return to the staff in 2018, including Keola Loo (offensive line), Anthony Weeden (wide receivers), Dustin Sobieraj (defensive line), Marcus Graves (defensive backs) and Benson Laumatia. Three new coaches join the staff for the 2018 campaign, including Famika Anae (tight ends), Carl Franke (running backs) and Junior Tanuvasa (linebackers).

For the second-consecutive season, Dixie State was selected to finish fourth in the RMAC Preseason Coaches poll, while two players (Tolutau and Kelly) received preseason All-RMAC honors.

Dixie State begins its third season of Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play on the road with the season opener at Colorado State-Pueblo on Saturday, Sept. 1. The Trailblazers then come home for three-straight RMAC games, beginning with the home opener vs. Fort Lewis on Saturday, Sept. 8. DSU continues the homestand the following week with a date vs. New Mexico Highlands on Saturday, Sept. 15, followed by a matchup vs. South Dakota Mines on Saturday, Sept. 22. Kickoff for all three games of the homestand will be at 6 p.m.

Following a two-game road trip to RMAC member Black Hills State (Sept. 29) and perennial national power Grand Valley State (Oct. 6), Dixie State returns home to square off against Western State Colorado on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m. DSU then closes the season with three of its final four games on the road, starting with a two-game swing at Chadron State (Oct. 20) and Colorado Mesa (Oct. 27).

Dixie State returns home for Homecoming and Senior Day on Saturday, Nov. 3, when the Trailblazers welcome Colorado School of Mines for a 1 p.m. kickoff. DSU then closes the 2018 regular season at Adams State on Saturday, Nov. 10.